Vertical and horizontal career advancement are two different ways to progress in your career, each with its own characteristics and implications:

  1. Vertical Career Advancement:
    • Vertical advancement is the most common concept of career progression, often associated with climbing the traditional career ladder within a single organization.
    • It involves moving up within your current job or organization hierarchy. For example, going from an entry-level position to a supervisory role, manager, director, or even executive positions.
    • Vertical advancement typically involves taking on more responsibilities, managing larger teams, and often earning higher salaries as you move up the organizational hierarchy.
    • This type of advancement is often characterized by a clear hierarchy, with defined steps and positions to strive for within the same field or industry.
  2. Horizontal Career Advancement:
    • Horizontal advancement, on the other hand, is about broadening your skills and experience by taking on different roles or responsibilities within your current organization or across various industries.
    • Instead of moving up the ladder, you move laterally or sideways, often taking on roles at a similar level or rank but in different areas of expertise or departments.
    • The primary goal of horizontal advancement is to gain a diverse skill set, knowledge, and experience, which can make you more versatile and valuable in your field.
    • While horizontal advancement may not always come with an immediate increase in salary or title, it can lead to long-term career growth by making you a well-rounded professional.

Making vertical or horizontal moves depends on your career goals, personal preferences, and the opportunities available to you. Sometimes, your chosen career path may involve a combination of both vertical and horizontal moves to achieve your desired level of success and satisfaction.

In the legal field, horizontal movements may include moving to a different practice area. This may also be accompanied by a lower salary which might well be worth it to achieve your goals.

In the legal field, vertical movements and progress is typically defined as being on a “partnership track.” What many lawyers don’t realize is vertical movement also means learning the “business of law” and not just how to practice law.

Read more about The Business of Law here.